The first part of this story happened awhile ago, back when there was still time in my days for aimless wandering and random missions seeking adventure. Reading my notes from that time I almost feel like scolding myself, reaching out to slap my own face, some version of, “How could you just stop looking into what happened up there?” flashing through my mind. It makes sense that way now, but I have to give back a little credit and kindness to my younger self. Life got busier, my free time vanished and the mysteries of Clyde Forks became vague nighttime memories, haunting ones for sure, but just memories. They were almost always beaten into submission by my own tiredness, and they would be gone in the morning. I can honestly say that I would likely have left it that way except for two things. One was a podcast I happened upon randomly in my search for audio accompaniment in quiet times. I won’t name it here but you can find it without looking very hard. The second was the re-reading of my tattered journal from back in the time when I first ventured up to the Clyde Forks mine. That podcast had spooked me and my notes only made it worse. Was there some part of what I knew, some piece of the odd and unsettling time I had spent in that area, that related to this mystery of a missing boy?
Back to the beginning…
I went there initially for a simple, if slightly dangerous, reason. Having run out of other interesting ways to tempt death, I was planning on crawling around inside the abandoned Clyde Forks mine. This was just another one of those places that you hear about among your adventuring buddies, some strange place way off in the Canadian brush-land. So I went, driving well past what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, into a never-ending patchwork of water and forest. Tired of traveling by the time I had located Clyde Forks itself, I pulled over on the side of the gravel road for the night and slept in the back of my truck, wrapped up in a light sleeping bag. Two days later, frustrated by the apparently poor information I had on the location of this mine, I wandered back into Clyde Forks. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I wandered into what remained of it.
The town of Clyde Forks had been robust enough at one time, at least for a place that was located in the lumber and mining country of eastern Ontario. Back then the Kingston and Pembroke railway ran past the town and the area was alive with all the usual activity of an active operation. Boarding houses for the teams that pulled lumber out of the nearby forests surrounded Clyde Forks and the town itself had a decent sized population and quite a few stores and other buildings. There was also a mine in the area of course, one which contained barite and small amounts of other useful minerals such as gold and silver. The remains of those glory days still stood for the most part when I got there that day, covered in moss and overgrown bushes, grey buildings peeking out from behind foliage. It was not a ghost town but it was definitely headed that way, with just the occasional modern house scattered around a small area along the Clyde Forks Road. I had gone back with the intention of asking someone for assistance in finding the mine; however, once I arrived I found such a stillness and silence that I just stood there looking around. It did not just seem quiet. It seemed vaguely hostile in a way I could not put my finger on. Like walking into a local bar on a day when all the regulars are present and there are not many open places to sit. You would be tolerated, but just barely. Finally I shook my head and walked toward the nearest house which was down Cemetery Road, a label that did not improve the general feel of the place. The house was made of red brick, various additions having been made over the years, all of them also in brick, but in colors that did not quite match the original. Although it had a crumbling chimney and rotten wood window frames, the roof appeared to be brand new and the porch had been recently painted. An odd feature that I noticed as I approached was that the ground floor windows were almost level with the scrubby grass that surrounded the home. They were also tall enough that an average-sized man could have stepped straight through the opening if the glass had not been in the way. They made it seem as though the house had been slowly sinking into the ground over the many years it had been there, one day to be swallowed up with only its uppermost chimney stack sticking out to mark its location.
As I approached, it was obvious that someone was inside, as I could hear a radio playing and saw a few shadows behind the opaque window glass on the front door. I knocked and the first strange encounter in Clyde Forks happened.
As soon as my first rap echoed through the house the shadows stopped moving. The radio still played, a soft blues melody carrying through the humid air, but other than that there was nothing. I stepped back and attempted to look into one of the windows; however, they were covered by thick, dirty white drapes. I knocked again and this time the radio stopped playing and the silence of the area sprang back at me. It was indeed an eerie kind of quiet. I waited several minutes, wondering why no one was coming to the door. I suppose you could attribute it to the remote nature of the place. People in those kind of areas probably do not get many visitors, and when they do I expect they know they are coming before they arrive. They probably like to just be left alone. But if someone knocks on your door, and you know how obvious it is that you are home, well, you just answer it. It is the polite thing to do. Figuring that I needed to explain why I had intruded upon their seclusion, I knocked once again and called out.
“Sorry to bother you, but I just need some quick directions and I’ll be on my way.”
Again nothing happened. Stepping back again to look toward the windows I almost jumped right out of my shoes.
Standing inside the window farthest away from me was a tall, angular man, grey-skinned and with a pinched face that had a long scar going over the right eyebrow. He was dressed in a poorly tailored black suit and wore a battered grey derby with a red feather in the band. The drapes, which still hung behind him shielding any view of the interior, made his dark clothing seem all the more stark. One of his hands rested on the window frame and the other was tucked inside his suit coat. After I recovered my wits I gave him a half-hearted wave but was met with a stony look from his green eyes and nothing else. As I stood there, with my heart still beating faster than usual in my chest, I felt that something other than the man himself was odd about this moment. I soon figured out that this was little more than the window situation again, as I could see almost the entirety of the man in the window, all the way down his long legs to a point right above his feet. Apparently those windows really did go all the way to the floor. I glanced back at the man again and he remained as he had been, blinking only occasionally, expressionless and still. His look reminded me of the way I imagine people stare at headstones of long departed love ones; somber and grieving but distant from their emotions, like it does not matter so much anymore. I raised my hand to knock again but then thought better of it and walked off the porch, back toward the road. As I did the radio clicked on in the house again, and that same blues melody followed me off the property.
…to be continued